Why do we celebrate Holi?

Why do we celebrate Holi and what are the various legends associated with the festival. Check out here why we celebrate Holi.

The most colorful festival celebrated in India is HOLI. This festival is the merger of vivacious colors and celebrations filled with joy that makes the day special. It is the festival to celebrate the victory of good over evil and make everyone understand the influence of good. From smearing colors on each other to enjoying delicious sweet such as Gujiyas together, the Holi festival is fun filled and joyous for all age group. Holi also signifies the arrival of spring season after winter. It is also celebrated to spread love and happiness and as thanksgiving for worthy harvest.

There are various legends associated with the celebration of Holi as festival differing from region to region.

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Why do we celebrate Holi?

Legend of Prahlada

According to one such ancient mythology is the legend of king Hiranyakashipu. A tribute to Lord Vishnu and his devotee Prahlada is the Holi celebration according to this legend. It goes like this: according to the Bhagvata Purana, king Hiranyakashipu was the king of demons, and was blessed with advantage that not animal nor human, neither inside nor outside, neither with any mad made weapon nor a projectile weapon, neither during the night nor the day and neither on land, water nor air. This blessing made the demon king arrogant and he ordered everyone to worship him as god and not even the gods were spared.

But his son Prahlada disobeyed his father and worshiped Lord Vishnu. This made his father very angry and he planned to kill his son Prahlada with the help of his sister Holikaa. Holikaa was immune to fire as a blessing from god. So, Holikaa tempted Prahlada to sit on her lap and then she set blazing fire. But, unbelievably prahlada came out of the fire unhurt whereas his aunt Holikaa was burnt to ashes as the blessing useless if it was to hurt someone. Since that day, during the Holi celebration, Holika Dahan is done by people mostly in the North India to celebrate the victory over evil by good.

Significance of Holi:

It is believed that Lord Vishnu, appeared in the form of Narashima- (neither human nor animal) half human and half lion, picked the egotistical demon king to the doorstep (neither outdoor nor indoor) and exterminated him with his claws (neither man-made nor launched weapon). From that day onward the festival of Holi celebration began to rejoice the triumph of good over evil.

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Legend of Radha-Krishna:

Lord Krishna when young was very frisky and mischievous. As a child, Krishna was very envious that Radha has fair skin and was very dark. So one day he objected to his mother Yashoda about the nature’s injustice to him.  The devoted mother Yashoda told the upset Krishna to colour Radha’s face with any colour he desired to calm him. In a playful mood, mischievous Krishna noted the mother’s words and smeared colour on Radha’s face, to make her look like him.

There is a legend that tells us why Krishna has dark skin. It is said that once demon tried to murder new-born Krishna by feeding him with venomous milk but Krishna was unharmed, instead that demon withered into ashes.

Significance of Holi:

In some way, the Lord Krishna’s prank of applying color on Radha and other gopi’s with water jets known as pichkaris become popular and gained recognition which is followed by the devotees as festival of colors. The Radha Krishna folktale is brilliantly celebrated by people all over India, especially in Vrindavan, Mathura, Barsana and Nandgaon- the places that relate with them.

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Legend of Kamadeva

According to the legend, after Lord Shiva’s spouse Sati gave herself into fire as Daksha her father insulted Shiva and Lord Shiva was very unhappy. He relinquished all the worldly obligations and engrossed himself in deep mediation.

In the meantime, Parvati- daughter of mountains began mediation to please Lord Shiva as she wished to marry him. As Lord Shiva was not interested in any of the world’s affairs, things began to get complicated that made all gods worried and fearful. So to bring back Lord Shiva to his self, the gods reached the Lord Kaamadeva(the god of passion and love) for help. Lord Kaamadeva very well knew the adverse effect of the act, but he agreed to eject his arrow on Lord Shiva to save the world.  Kaamadeva as per the plan shot an arrow of love on Lord Shiva while he was meditating. Lord Shiva was disturbed due to this and out of extreme anger opened his third eye and scorched Lord Kaamadeva into ashes. But, Kaamadeva’s arrow had dispersed the anticipated effect on Lord Shiva due to which he married Parvati.

Later, Rati- the wife of Kaamadeva prayed Lord Shiva and told that it was the idea of gods hence kindly recover her husband.  Lord Shiva accepted her prayers and thus the event had joyous end.

Significance of Holi:

According to the belief Lord Shiva charred Kaamadeva on that day of Holi. In South India people worship the idol of Kaamadeva- god of love to pay respect for his life-threatening sacrifice on the day known as HOLI. Kaamadeva idol decorated with sugarcane as bow and the string line of humming bee and his shaft of arrow crowned with passion that prick the heart. People offer mango buds to the deity that he loved and also the sandalwood paste as coolant for his burns.

In other part of South India like Tamil Nadu, Holi is celebrated by three diverse names- Kaman Pandigai, Kamavilas and Kama Dahanam.

In Maharashtra, the festival signifies Matki Phod(breaking the pot filled with buttermilk). Group of Men make human pyramid by stand on top of each other to reach the pot hung with buttermilk. The person who hits the earthen pot is termed as the Holi king of that year.

In Punjab region, Sikhs celebrate with colors on Hola Mohalla, and it is rejoiced on the next day of Holi.

In Virndavan, alienated women and widows engross themselves in Holi colours.

Thus the traditions and rituals differ from one region to another but all are united by the essence of this colorful festival.


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